A Rival of the Silkworm

The Literary Digest

One of the most interesting features of the Paris Exposition was a bed-canopy woven of spider's silk, to be found in the Madagascar Palace, on the square of the Trocadero. "This masterpiece of strength, lightness, and elegance," says the Magazin Pittoresque, "comes from the lcoms of Tananarivo, and thousands of spiders of a certain species, called the halabes, have contributed to its production." The writer continues as follows:—

This new industry, created in our colonies ... has taken the name of araneiculture. Although still in its infancy, it has a very interesting history which has been recently narrated by one of its most ardent promoters, Lieutenant J. Maroix, from whose work upon the subject the following information is derived: Various attempts have been made at different times to utilize the thread of the spider, but of Father Cambone, a French missionary to Madagascar, is due the credit of having first brought these attempts to a successful issue. ... The spinning halabe, whose superiority over the rest of his tribe was soon recognized by Father Cambone, is a large black insect of very unattractive appearance.

"These spiders are very plentiful in Imerina, where they live upon trees and feed upon raw flesh. Hundreds of thousands are found in the environs of Tananarivo, where they multiply with extreme rapidity. The first experiments of Father Cambone were made in the simplest manner. The spiders were imprisoned in match-boxes, and by slightly compressing the abdomen he managed to extract and wind upon a little reel turned by hand a thread that sometimes attained a length of five hundred yards. He was soon able to reach two conclusions: that the spiders gave out the longest threads soon after laying their eggs, and that in a month they can undergo two or three windings without inconvenience, producing about two thousand yards of thread.

Largest Watch in the World
May 30, 1901

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